Let’s get to it:
BRIAN WILSON FROM BUENA PARK, CA: In your opinion, who have been the Steelers best draft picks in rounds 4-through-7 since 2010?
ANSWER: In the nine drafts from 2010-18, I would identify Joshua Dobbs as the best fourth-round pick; Jesse James as the best fifth-round pick; Antonio Brown as the best sixth-round pick; and Kelvin Beachum as the best seventh-round pick.
Delving a little deeper into this issue: Dobbs (135th overall in 2017) gets chosen even though his playing time has been quite limited, with him having taken only 20 meaningful snaps in his young career, but the way he stepped up and overtook Landry Jones for the backup job in the summer of 2018 gives him the nod.
James (160th overall in 2015) has played in 55 games with 36 starts, and he has 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns. But as an unrestricted-free-agent-to-be and reported to have agreed to terms on a contract with the Detroit Lions, James looks to be at the end of his Steelers career, while Jaylen Samuels (165th overall in 2018) is at the beginning. But for right now, James gets the nod over Samuels as the best fifth-round pick of the last nine years.
Despite what fans may think of Brown as he’s about to be traded, he has to be the selection as the best sixth-round draft choice from 2010-18, and it’s possible that he and Tom Brady are the best sixth-round draft choices in NFL history. But the Steelers also found a quality starter in the sixth round of the 2013 draft in Vince Williams (206th overall). With 47 starts among his 93 career games played, Williams has 318 tackles, 15 sacks, two interceptions, three passes defensed, and three fumble recoveries.
NFL talent evaluators will tell you that it’s difficult to find starting-caliber left tackles in any NFL Draft, let alone in the seventh round, but that’s exactly what the Steelers did in 2012 when they used the 248th overall pick on Beachum. During his four seasons in Pittsburgh, Beachum played in 39 games, with 36 starts, and in those 39 games he was flagged for only seven holding penalties.
RUSSELL INGRAM FROM RIVERSIDE, CA: I've been checking Steelers.com for news regarding Antonio Brown's trade to the Oakland Raiders. As of today it's been three days since the announcement and no mention of the trade. Is this intentional on the Steeler organization's part?
ANSWER: There has been no announcement of the trade, because no trades become official until 4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 13, which also is when free agency begins and teams must be under the salary cap. Anything written or said before that time isn’t official, and it’s worth noting that there also is nothing about the trade on Raiders.com. Check the website after 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
JOE KILBURG FROM CLARK, NJ: I was just shocked to read that Jesse James signed with Detroit. How does a player sign with another team other than his own before free agency begins?
ANSWER: What can happen in the 72 hours before the official beginning of the free agency signing period is that teams can begin negotiations with the agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents. In the specific case of Jesse James, what has been reported is that the player agreed to terms on a contract with the Detroit Lions. That will not become official until 4:01 p.m. on Wednesday.
DREW BOB ANDERSON FROM TALLADEGA, AL: I know there's nothing more official yet than a tweet from Antonio Brown, but I assume he is really gone. If the Steelers were to keep him, and he didn't report, they obviously wouldn't have to pay him. Would the big cap hit then get "reimbursed" in 2020?
ANSWER: I assume by “big cap hit” you’re referring to the $21.12 million in dead money to be assessed to the Steelers’ 2019 salary cap. That assessment only happens if Antonio Brown is cut, traded, or he retires.
MICK WATTS FROM NORTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM: Did the Steelers carry over the $14.54 million from Le’Veon Bell onto this year’s (2019) salary cap?
JOHN ZELINSKY FROM CLEVELAND, OH: Can you explain to me and probably a lot of other fans why the Steelers never have enough cap space compared to other teams around the league to sign potential players in free agency?
ANSWERS: It’s because the Steelers choose to utilize their salary cap space to sign their own players to contract extensions. So far this offseason, the Steelers have chosen to use some of their salary cap space to re-sign Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey, and also to place a $3 million tender on restricted free agent B.J. Finney. Those moves solidify the interior of an offensive line that should remain one of the best in the NFL, at least in part because of those kinds of moves.
ERIC MORGAN FROM POINT PLEASANT BORO, NJ: What is the status of Christian Scotland-Williamson?
ANSWER: He is a part of the team’s offseason roster.
CHAD MCCARTY FROM CORONA, CA: Does the head coach have any say in a situation when the Steelers are shopping a player and a team makes an offer for that player?
ANSWER: Yes. Coach Mike Tomlin is consulted on any and every roster move the Steelers might make.
LENNART GABKA FROM BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY: Would it make sense to add Captain Munnerlyn as an unrestricted free agent? The Steelers then could use their No. 1 pick for an inside linebacker and their No. 2 pick for a wide receiver or an offensive lineman.
ANSWER: Captain Munnerlyn will be a 31-year-old cornerback with 12 career interceptions in 154 NFL games.
GREG PARSONS FROM JACKSON, ME: Do you think the Steelers should look into trying to sign Justin Houston now that the Chiefs are releasing him?
ANSWER: Justin Houston is a 30-year-old outside linebacker who has missed 21 games over the previous four seasons with injuries.
JUSTIN MILLER FROM OLD HICKORY, TN: It seems like it might be a good idea for the Steelers to pursue a wide receiver like Tyrell Williams in free agency so they can use their top draft picks on defensive playmakers. Do the Steelers have the salary cap space to compete for players like that?
ANSWER: Tyrell Williams, 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, is a 27-year old wide receiver who has averaged three catches a game over his four year career with the Los Angeles Chargers. He has been linked to a free agent contract that would pay him $48 million over four years.
JODY STRUBLE FROM MORGANTOWN, WV: What is your opinion of wide receiver David Sills from West Virginia University? I've seen him projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
ANSWER: I don’t know enough about David Sills, but I can relay what NFL analyst Lance Zierlein wrote about Sills for NFL.com: “Tall, thin target with below-average play strength and separation ability, but very impressive ball skills to compete when it's in the air. Sills won't see as many free releases and easy long balls on the next level. He needs to get stronger and more efficient with his press release technique and dig into the craft of route-running to make himself a more viable first- and second-level target. He should continue to improve but the transition to the pros could be challenging early on.”
THOMAS SCHMIDT FROM GRANDY, NC: Do you get exhausted reading all of these repetitive dumb ideas?
ANSWER: Sometimes they’re good for comic relief.